More EC Fantasties

Another day, another EC fantasy,

ecmapTexas elector Christopher Suprun is unhappy with Donald Trump and has taken to the pages of the NYT to explain Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump:

Alexander Hamilton provided a blueprint for states’ votes. Federalist 68 argued that an Electoral College should determine if candidates are qualified, not engaged in demagogy, and independent from foreign influence. Mr. Trump shows us again and again that he does not meet these standards. Given his own public statements, it isn’t clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him.

Indeed, in the piece he outlines several reasons, including conflicts of interest, as to why he cannot vote for Trump.

So, unlike one of his fellow Texas electors who resigned rather than vote for Trump, he wants the EC to rally around another candidate.  He concludes:

The election of the next president is not yet a done deal. Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience. I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. I pray my fellow electors will do their job and join with me in discovering who that person should be.

First, in terms of pure mechanics, the notion that the electors (who never all meet in one location) could manage to coordinate in such a way as to pick a wholly new candidate is simply untenable.  The institution does not work like that and never did.  Even when the electors were presumed to have independent volition it was assumed that they would be acting at the state level and likely acting on regional political impulses.  Indeed, one of the reasons for creating the EC was the Framers’ assumption that national action on the question of the presidency was likely impossible.

Second, this conclusion and call to action underscores, in my opinion, the flawed logic of many #NeverTrump attempts:  it ignores that the only viable alternative to Trump was Clinton.  This has been true for months and months.  If there is going to be an EC revolt (and their isn’t) to stop Trump, the only way to do is to peel off enough electors to elect Hillary Clinton.  That requires moving 38 electors.  To elect someone who didn’t even run requires moving 270 electors.  The math is pretty obvious, especially since the odds of 38 switching are essentially zero.

As I pointed out in a recent post, there have been a total of 157 faithless electors in the history of the US, and just under half of those were in cases were a candidate died before the votes were cast.  The last election with more than one faithless elector was 1912.  I do expect that we will see a modern record for faithless electors this year, but that number is likely to still be in the single digits.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Just a question: Weren’t there 15 unpledged electors in 1960?

  2. Pch101 says:

    Protesting is about playing the long game. Just because it doesn’t produce immediate results does not mean that it shouldn’t be undertaken.

    Trump’s legitimacy should be questioned every step of the way, and it absolutely should begin with this. If there was ever a time for checks and balances, it’s now.

  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Pch101:

    Trump’s legitimacy should be questioned every step of the way, and it absolutely should begin with this. If there was ever a time for checks and balances, it’s now.

    I think my favorite part about elections like this is the Mad Hatter “EVERYONE SWITCH PLACES!” moment afterward where both sides suddenly begin talking like the other side was the week before.

  4. Pch101 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Alexander Hamilton was the Mad Hatter? Good to know, thanks for the tip.

  5. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pch101:

    Bingo. The goal isn’t to elect Clinton, which isn’t going to happen. It’s to undermine public faith in the EC system to the point where there is sufficient support for eliminating it altogether.

  6. Pch101 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I don’t have a problem with the electoral college. I have a problem with Donald Trump being president.

    Electors should behave like electors. The point of having indirect elections is to provide a check and balance (although that backfired in this particular instance.)

  7. Ratufa says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    How do you plan on persuading the voters in red states to embrace the idea that their votes for President should be devalued?

  8. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ratufa:

    By recruiting individuals to seek service as electors in those sparsely populated states with the specific intent of subsequently casting faithless electoral votes.

    If anything, it’s easier and more effective to do that in those red states. New York, for example, gets 29 electoral votes. To subvert the EC and piss off the voters there, you’d have to successfully recruit and flip at least 15 electors.

    Wyoming, in contrast and as an example, has only three electoral votes, which means that you only have to get two of them to flip to achieve the same result. For the same amount of effort and capital that you’d have to expend on flipping NY, you can potentially flip 7 sparsely populated red states.

    Add in that those states are traditionally the most opposed to doing away with the EC system, and you benefit twice.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    The idea that we can wake up from this nightmare is, indeed, a fantasy.

  10. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pch101:

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with that approach either, but electors exercising independent judgment isn’t likely to happen. It’s easier to convince individuals that the system itself is flawed than it is to convince them that this party or that party is flawed.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    Any system that forces the world’s greatest democracy to explain to the world that it has elected an unstable man-baby despite the fact that the opposing candidate got 2 million more votes is absurd on its face and should be dispensed with.

    We look ridiculous. There is not a single country anywhere thinking, “Oh, I wish we had us some of that American style democracy!” The world thinks we’ve lost our minds and the only happy people are our enemies.

    Unfortunately our system is broken. It’s been systematically subverted by the GOP and now, surprise, it flat does not work. We’re a country that can’t manage to create a budget. We’re democracy in its dotage.

  12. pennywit says:

    @Pch101:

    He’s not throwin’ away his hat.

  13. Ben Wolf says:

    I’m fascinated by the hyper-simplistic thinking that goes into “undermining support for the electoral college” when advocates of such action cannot know the consequences of reaching the goal and the manner in which it is reached. One suspects such people are unaccustomed to thinking or suffering the results of their own behavior.

  14. Ratufa says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    By recruiting individuals to seek service as electors in those sparsely populated states with the specific intent of subsequently casting faithless electoral votes.

    Electors are generally chosen by a state’s political parties on the basis of party loyalty. Recruiting such people will be a difficult process. Even if you did manage to flip a red state, that is unlikely to make the voters of that state reject the electoral college. What do they have to gain by doing so? The more likely outcome is for the states and the state parties to make it harder to flip electors.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    the opposing candidate got 2 million more votes

    2.5M and counting…getting close to a 4% lead.

  16. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    Protesting is about playing the long game. Just because it doesn’t produce immediate results does not mean that it shouldn’t be undertaken.

    No, but reforming the electoral college isn’t going to be a multi-year project and if it is, it’s a waste of time and energy that could be spent doing other things.

  17. KM says:

    On the whole, I am not a fan of faithless electors specifically because it creates a huge lack of public faith that “their votes counts”. I am fully aware the popular vote means jack all in the end but the entire point of having it was to have some sort of linkage back to the EC. The will of the people reflected back in the EC is a lovely idea that reinforces the notion American choose their leader while still keeping a safeguard in place. It rankles something deep that the most powerful person in the world is chosen by less then a thousand handpicked people.

    Still, the point of a safeguard is that its there to stop disaster. Should enough electors decide they cannot elect Trump, they will have fulfilled their purpose as the breaks on an oncoming storm. I do believe there should be some sort of consequence for the faithless elector as they have bucked the stated will of several thousands/millions but a true patriot will take the hit to save their country. It will be (literally) bloody chaos as *both* sides flip their lids and no future election would ever be sure but that’s the system our forefathers gave us.

    We have no good path forward. Honor the EC and we get Trump and all the garbage he brings with. Defy the EC and we get Clinton and a new uncertainty on how the Great Experiment works. It’s pick your poison, folks – we get sick either way.

  18. Pch101 says:

    @James Pearce:

    No, but reforming the electoral college isn’t going to be a multi-year project and if it is, it’s a waste of time and energy that could be spent doing other things.

    Where did I ever mention the idea of “reforming the electoral college”? You have me confused with someone else.

    I’ve said the opposite. I’m fine with the electoral college. When I said above that “I don’t have a problem with the electoral college,” I was saying that I don’t have a problem with the electoral college.

    I want the electoral college to behave like the electoral college that was described in Federalist 68. Electors should reject bad candidates — the reason that we vote for electors instead of voting directly for candidates is so that it is possible to keep bad presidents out of office. If electors are just going to go along for the ride no matter how bad it is, then they serve no useful purpose.

  19. Pch101 says:

    @KM:

    Defy the EC and we get Clinton and a new uncertainty on how the Great Experiment works.

    A president needs 270 electoral votes, and you can bet that Clinton will not be receiving any electoral votes from Republicans. So that isn’t the alternative.

    In the unlikely scenario that Trump can be denied 270 electoral votes, then the House will choose the president. Given that the House is majority Republican, you can guess where that would end up.

    But again, the most realistic scenario (aside from nothing happening at all) is that we end up with some protest votes from some Republican electors.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    For a start it would force candidates to occasionally talk to voters in states that matter other than Florida. States like California, Texas, New York. States where people live and money’s made, as opposed to pandering to whiny New Hampsherites and idiot Iowans, two states that have between them fwck-all to do with anything of relevance. We start with the two whitest states and move directly on the original secessionist state. The total population of all three amounts to less than New York City alone. And California, with one out of every eight Americans and an economy that would qualify us for membership in the G7 if we were independent, gets ignored.

    The system is clearly, obviously, unmistakably stupid. If we were starting over from scratch would there be the slightest reason to do this all over again? Of course not, because it is absurd on its face.

    Then again, our whole federalist, state-driven thing is nonsense. California gets one senator per 14,000,000 residents and Wyoming gets one senator for every 300,000 residents. Idiotic, wasteful, divisive, a relic of the 19th century that ought to be eliminated. Our entire system is a result of compromises made to appease slave-drivers. But we’ve developed this quasi-religious reverence for men who did a damned good job – for the late 18th and early 19th century – so we leave ourselves incapable of recognizing that this ain’t the 19th century anymore.

  21. Ratufa says:

    @michael reynolds:

    as opposed to pandering to whiny New Hampsherites and idiot Iowans,

    What does pandering to New Hampshire and Iowa have to do with the electoral college? That pandering is mainly a function of our Presidential primary/caucus system.

  22. Pch101 says:

    @Ratufa:

    That pandering is mainly a function of our Presidential primary/caucus system.

    The primary-caucus system can exist only because the US has 51 presidential elections. New Hampshire wouldn’t mean jack if we had the popular vote.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @Ratufa:

    I was broadening out beyond the EC question to my eternal (and admittedly pointless) vendetta against the whole existing state system.

    Usually I stick with practical political questions, but occasionally I allow myself a futile rant.

  24. C. Clavin says:

    Question Trump and he’ll crash your stock…
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/did-boeing-get-out-of-line
    Welcome to the largest Banana-Republic ever.

  25. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    You have me confused with someone else.

    No, I’m pretty sure you’re the weasel I had in mind….

    Although I should have know you’d retreat into “You just don’t understand” the moment you were challenged.

    I want the electoral college to behave like the electoral college that was described in Federalist 68.

    I put this kind of thing in the “if only” category of wishful thinking.

    “If only the EC worked as described in Federalist 68.”

    And while I agree that Donald Trump will make a bad president, I don’t think we need to try and resolve last month’s problem. This was a very close election. Hillary should have won, but she didn’t.

    Don’t look back. Look forward.

  26. Pch101 says:

    @James Pearce:

    I never mentioned reforming the electoral college. So doubling down on your claim that I did is rather foolhardy here on planet Earth, even it plays well on Planet Pierce.

    In any case, several Republican electors have said that they would be faithless, and I’m all in favor of them doing it. They aren’t going to vote for Clinton, and the point of their effort is not to put Clinton into office but to gain leverage over Trump.

    Trump is not last month’s problem, he is a problem for the next four years. The effort to destabilize his administration starts by undermining its legitimacy and denying him a mandate.

    The Republicans have been playing this game for two decades, so the tactics are not exactly a secret.

  27. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    I never mentioned reforming the electoral college.

    If you’re not proposing any reforms, then how do you expect it to ever behave like in Hamilton’s vision in “Federalist 68”? It won’t become that way just by wishing it were so.

  28. Pch101 says:

    @Kylopod:

    A half-dozen electors have said that they won’t vote for Trump.

    Good. Encourage them to do it and others to follow them. This is not that complicated.

  29. Avid sportman says:

    @C. Clavin: You must have a completely different definition of stock crash than I do.

  30. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    I never mentioned reforming the electoral college.

    No, I did, dude. You just mentioned an unending protest with the vaguely defined goal of “questioning Trump’s presidency.”

    Trump is not last month’s problem, he is a problem for the next four years.

    Probably 8.

    And we’re going to need to some better ideas than “More protest!”

  31. C. Clavin says:

    @Avid sportman:
    $2 a share…albeit briefly.
    The bigger point is that this guy is a buffoon who is going to cause some major damage at some point shooting off his mouth on topics he knows nothing about…which is just about everything but how much he wants to fwck his own daughter.

  32. Guarneri says:

    @C. Clavin: @C. Clavin:

    The point is you got called out for being a complete loser.

    I see it’s another day, another day of infantile and impotent ranting here. Carry on.

  33. C. Clavin says:

    @Guarneri:
    I see that once again you have nothing to offer…but your emotions.

  34. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    A half-dozen electors have said that they won’t vote for Trump.

    Good. Encourage them to do it and others to follow them. This is not that complicated.

    Fine. Encourage them all you like (not that it will make much difference one way or the other). But none of that will cause the EC to function anything like what Hamilton had in mind.

  35. C. Clavin says:

    @Guarneri:
    Trump has called out Boeing based on bad numbers…and pushed Carrier into a bogus deal that saves far less than the 1000 jobs advertised…20% fewer.
    Is this really how you think things should work?
    You are positively giddy that you rednecks managed to get a buffoon elected.

  36. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ratufa:

    Even if you did manage to flip a red state, that is unlikely to make the voters of that state reject the electoral college. What do they have to gain by doing so?

    I’d suggest taking a stroll through the idiot forums. They are pretty angry that this guy even intends to go faithless.

    However, when I explained why their notion of the electoral college (that electors have to vote in accordance with the popular vote in their respective states) was in error, and that electors ostensibly could vote as they damned well pleased, they went ballistic. Stark raving ranting mad.

    That is how you kill the EC. You turn people against it.

    The more likely outcome is for the states and the state parties to make it harder to flip electors.

    There are two possible outcomes – either the states do what they have historically done (nothing, which just undermines public faith in the EC system), or they actually try to punish / nulllify faithless electors, which tees up what I really want:

    The only people who arguably have standing to challenge the constitutionality of state laws attempting to coerce electors are – electors themselves. I actually want states to go stupid enacting all sorts of laws and going after faithless electors, because I want the primary issue – whether Article II grants electors unfettered power to vote in accordance with their own judgment – in front of a federal court.

    Obtain a federal ruling stating that, and the rest will take care of itself.

  37. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @C. Clavin: We can’t be a Banana Republic–it’s too cold to grow bananas this far north.

  38. rachel says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Given genetic manipulation and/or global warming, how much longer is that going to last?

  39. Tyrell says:

    Here is a proposal that may work better than what we have now, but would include some of the components.
    The electoral “college” would be kept, but would be modified. The country would be divided into districts or sections: north east, New England states, southeast, north central, north west, and some others. Each section would have the same number of electoral votes, but would get a bonus of maybe up to ten electoral votes based on vote numbers margins. There would also be ratios used and those would be based on certain percentages and formulas that would be worked out. Some of the variables used in the formulas could possibly be the primary totals and census data. Thus an electoral vote could possibly turn out to be a decimal figure such as 8.65. The state electoral vote would then be averaged with the regional electoral vote using some sort of a scale or logarithm. Then reliable ratios would be applied to result in a reasonable number, reflective of the popular votes.
    I am working on setting up a computer model of this system based on the last 15 elections to see how it figures out. I will get back with the results.

  40. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    We can’t be a Banana Republic–it’s too cold to grow bananas this far north.

    Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
    Groucho Marx

    What? You want something that makes sense???

    Sorry, that train left back on Nov. 8th.

  41. @Tyrell: And why would we do this?

    There is a much easier and time-tested way: let each person vote, and let each vote count the same, as basic political equality dictates. Add them up and see who gets the most. And if we want to get fancy, we can use mechanisms to require an absolute majority.

    (I apologize for the snark, but seriously: why can’t we just do that?)

  42. Ratufa says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Obtain a federal ruling stating that, and the rest will take care of itself.

    Once that ruling is obtained what difference would it make in practice? Even with an occasional faithless elector, voters in red states have more overall influence under the current system. The obvious reaction by state parties would be to choose electors who are more likely to remain loyal to the party. It can’t be that tough to find a handful of people in each state who will vote for their party’s, nominee no matter what — OTB comments are filled complaints about such people [*]. If you think that the folks on what you call “the idiot forums” would turn against the electoral college because of a few faithless electors, just remind them that Hillary would be our next President if the electoral college didn’t exist.

    * Admittedly a weak argument, since people on these forums complain about everything.

  43. Pch101 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    This election result will only encourage red states to keep the electoral college.

    We haven’t had a Republican who began his presidency by winning the popular vote since 1988. They don’t really care how they get into power, just as long as they do.

  44. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ratufa:

    It’s better than doing nothing. I hate the electoral college system with the heat of a nova. Frankly, if I thought I could get away with simply paying them to change their votes in order to create chaos and undermine it, I would do it in a heartbeat, but you work with what’s possible.

  45. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @rachel: Frankenbananas… I like the concept. Can we get the fruit to form little bolt-like appendages?

  46. MBunge says:

    @<a href="#comment-2148023″>michael reynolds:States like California, Texas, New York.

    Yes, because those states have so little influence on politics and public policy now. Why, oh why can someone not free us from the horrible tyranny of only being able to ignore states like Iowa and New Hampshire 99.9999% of the time? After all, it’s not like California, Texas and New York all have deep and abiding problems that get papered over by favorable economic conditions. No, they’re just splendid utopias. It’s entirely untrue that two of them depend on undocumented immigrants as a labor source and the other is home to the reckless sociopaths who almost destroyed the global economy.

    And by the way…

    States where people live and money’s made

    Since Donald Trump has made more money than I believe anyone who has ever run for President before, you might want to reconsider equating wealth with importance.

    Mike

  47. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m not objecting to a reform of our electoral system. I’m questioning the lack of thought by certain individuals regarding what it means to go about it by undermining support in a public institution when support for virtually all public institutions is at an all-time low and the assumption all will go in said individuals’ favor when swinging the wrecking-ball.

    Look at the process as so far described:.

    1) Destroy support for EC by getting peope to break their word (in itself an encouragement of dishonesty and corruption.)

    2) We get popular vote (another simplistic assumption from a commentor who has repeatedly complained we’re under threat from fascism yet fails to consider something other than popular election could result from crippling our electoral process via shenanigans.)

    How much legitimacy is gained by democracy when it is pursued through manipulative anti-democratic means?

  48. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    The EC was designed from the outset to give elites a de facto veto over the will of the people. It literally results in some votes counting more than others. It is, by its very nature, as anti-democratic as it gets. The only possible reform which would be fair is to undo the skewing and make every vote count proportionally the same, at which point there is no rationale for keeping it to begin with.

    Undermining that state of affairs is an act of patriotism in defense of democracy, but hey, if you like the concept then you’re free to spend your own money defending it.

  49. Ben Wolf says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The EC was designed from the outset to give elites a de facto veto over the will of the people. It literally results in some votes counting more than others. It is, by its very nature, as anti-democratic as it gets. The only possible reform which would be fair is to undo the skewing and make every vote count proportionally the same, at which point there is no rationale for keeping it to begin with.

    Translation:

    Elite decisions of the past are today interfering with wannabe elites like me. I assume the rabble will do exactly as I imagine because that’s all they’re good for and I can’t be bothered contemplating another outcome.

    After you move to France, of course.

  50. @HarvardLaw92:

    That is how you kill the EC. You turn people against it.

    The problem is that if the problems are caused by shenanigans/manipulation that is what people will get mad about. For people to turn against the EC, the EC itself has to be the reason. At the moment that means a Rep losing the the EV and winning the pop vote so that both sides are equally frustrated.

    This is, however, rather unlikely.

    And you know that I very much would like the system to be reformed.

  51. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Which is a neat synopsis of the crux of your gripe with the proposition – you personally dislike the proposer.

    I’m underwhelmed.

    Spend your money as you please. I’ll do the same.

  52. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The real goal is a federal ruling clarifying my interpretation of Article II. The shenanigans, while enjoyable in and of themselves, are essentially a tool to help that happen, not a motivator in and of themselves. In order to get it in front of a court, you need standing, and in this case it’s necessary to arrange the circumstances to enable it.

    If they change a few minds, all the better, but a court ruling laying out in no uncertain terms that electors can ignore the popular vote if they so choose will do more to change them in the long run. People obviously support it based on the perceived advantage, and find ways to rationalize that, but they only do because they believe that electors have to vote a certain way. Let them find out that isn’t the case – that they can be preempted – and they won’t like it.

  53. @HarvardLaw92: Since I think that the main binder of elector behavior is the method of their selection (i,.e., they are thoroughly partisan actors), I am not convinced that such a ruling would have the effect that you think it will (but certainly such a ruling would be interesting in and of itself).

  54. al-Ameda says:

    I have no illusions that reform will happen any time soon, but …

    I would start reform by proposing that 2 electors be removed from each state, that would begin to reduce the disproportionate influence of small states. I would be agreeable to a suggestion that one elector be eliminated from each state.

    Got to start somewhere.

    In the absence of a big Republican collapse or an economic collapse on the Republican watch, I think minority-elect Republican presidents are strong possibilities for a decade to come.

  55. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And yet despite that partisan actor presumption, we have several in this cycle who ostensibly intend to exercise the faithless option anyway – despite the lack of any definitive legal ruling in their favor and the possibility of punitive measures once they do so.

    Now project that forward to an environment where federal courts have ruled that they’re empowered to exercise independent judgment, would arguably be immune from consequences stemming from exercising a constitutionally prescribed function, and you have deep pockets / legal professionals publicly offering to represent them / defend their interests. You dramatically increase the likelihood of at least some in every cycle growing a conscience and defecting

    Every one that decides to take that step just encourages more of them to do so down the road. Eventually you reach a point where public opinion favors getting of it. It might take decades, but what positive legal / political development doesn’t?

  56. Pch101 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    As of today, faithless electors can be restricted at the state level per the Supreme Court, but there doesn’t seem to be any mechanism from preventing the actual act of faithlessness from taking place.

    So unless Ray v Blair is overturned (and why would it be?), the situation is already as favorable for creating the conditions that you want as it is going to get.

    Electors tend not to be faithless because they are party loyalists. That isn’t likely to change. (Americans who love to beat the original intent drum have no shame in cherry picking from the Federalist papers as it suits them.)

    If there is a wave of faithless electors stemming from Trump, then it would be largely due to members of his own party who reject him. To the extent that Democrats defect, it will because they are attempting to settle on a more tolerable Republican, not to get Clinton into office.

    So at the end of the day, no matter what happens, we still end up with the party that came in second place taking the White House. The GOP would fine with that.

    The only alternatives are to (a) amend the constitution or (b) get enough states to reallocate their electors so that the outcome matches the popular vote. The former is highly unlikely, while the latter may prove to be a house of cards.

    The reason to fight Trump now is to set the stage for his presidency to fail. An electoral college battle is just a means to that end, and is only incidental to the electoral college itself.

  57. Kylopod says:

    @al-Ameda:

    In the absence of a big Republican collapse or an economic collapse on the Republican watch, I think minority-elect Republican presidents are strong possibilities for a decade to come.

    It’s fascinating to me how quickly the conventional wisdom shifts. I’m not singling out you specifically, but for years I was hearing Dems talk about how they had a built-in electoral college advantage. This was always a delusion–and a pretty striking one given that memories of 2000 were still fresh. Back in May, I took some abuse here (6 downvotes, a record for me) for suggesting that Trump was the candidate who stood to benefit most from the EC. (I claim no special insight; I was listening heavily to Nate Silver, but the point is, a lot of people weren’t.) Now of course everyone accepts that the EC is skewed in the GOP’s favor, and suddenly it’s assumed to represent some kind of ingrained condition, just as people once made the same assumption from Obama’s solid electoral victories.

    In both cases the fallacy is that people are too quick to extrapolate from recent elections and not to consider how quickly things can change. Just because Republicans failed to win Pennsylvania for nearly three decades didn’t mean the state was ever out of their reach. And just because Trump won a massively skewed EC victory doesn’t mean he or future GOP candidates will manage the same feat. First of all, despite what happened this year and what happened in 2000 I continue to believe that EC/popular splits are a relatively unlikely occurrence. Second, when has the electoral map ever stayed the same from one election to the next?

    One of the most underrated lessons from this election is the importance of partisan identity in determining people’s votes. If you look at the exit polls it’s striking how normal the results look: Clinton won 89% of the Democratic vote and Trump won 90% of Republicans. That’s less than four years ago (when it was 92/93 for Obama and Romney respectively), but not by much. The total percentages of all the third-party candidates combined is less than what Perot got even during his second presidential run in 1996, when neither of the major-party candidates was unpopular. I think one of the reasons the polls underestimated Trump was because there were a lot of undecided Republicans who didn’t like Trump but broke for him anyway in the end. That was a possibility that concerned me before the election; you could say my worst fears were confirmed.

    As long as partisan identity remains more important than who the particular nominees are, I see the pendulum-like nature of party control over the White House continuing to operate.

  58. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pch101:

    As of today, faithless electors can be restricted at the state level per the Supreme Court, but there doesn’t seem to be any mechanism from preventing the actual act of faithlessness from taking place.

    So unless Ray v Blair is overturned

    We’re getting esoteric, but again, Ray v. Blair concerned itself solely with the question of whether a person seeking service as an elector (in the case at hand via his name being on the Alabama primary ballot, since Alabama elects electors via direct vote) could be denied access to the ballot on the basis of refusing to agree to a pledge of loyalty.

    It did NOT concern itself with whether the pledge could be cause for removal after the fact, and it did not concern itself with the Article II questions. Ray was only about who gets to BE an elector, not what an elector is empowered by the Constitution to do (and whether he/she can be punished for doing other than expected).

    Those questions have never been tested in federal court, no faithless electoral vote has ever been voided / changed, and to my knowledge no state has actually followed through on the threat of punishment.

    I just think it’s past time those questions got addressed & answered by a federal court. Holy grail? Multiple circuits address it differently. You don’t need me to tell you where that leads. 🙂

  59. Pch101 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    If it goes to the Supreme Court, then you probably have one of three basic outcomes:

    -Electors can be faithless from a federal standpoint (although states can restrict them before the fact and punish them after the fact)

    -The precedent set by Ray is extended further to allow even more state-level restrictions

    -Electors are free to do what they want without penalty

    The first option is the status quo.

    The second option makes things worse for you.

    The third option is next to impossible, as there is no reason to overturn Ray.

    So either you end up in the same place as you are now or else you’ve screwed yourself. A court case will not improve your situation and has high odds of making it worse. Why would you possibly want that?

  60. Avid sportman says:

    @al-Ameda:

    an economic collapse on the Republican watch

    The odds of this happening a probably a lot higher than you realize.

  61. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Pch101:

    I see Ray as inapplicable to the question. We’ll have to leave it at that.